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Achoo! Early spring may signal longer allergy season

By Paul Harris

An early spring could mean a long season for pollen allergy sufferers. With trees blooming two to three weeks ahead of schedule, experts expect that those same trees will begin producing pollen earlier. That does not mean the allergies will be any worse; they will just last longer.

Dr. Jim Ransom, an allergist who works at the Topeka Allergy and Asthma Clinic, said allergy sufferers should “hope for frequent showers.” Those frequent showers would help clean out the air and bring some relief, Ransom said.

Riley County horticulture agent Ward Upham said a frost would also bring some relief.

“It would kill those pollen makers,” Upham said. Despite the early spring, frosts are hardly out of the question. “Our average last frost is April 15,” he noted.

The worst thing for those with allergies would be a dry period with a lot of wind because those conditions would help spread the pollen around.

That pollen could be especially thick around Manhattan because of the prevalence of eastern red cedars, a type of juniper that produces especially high levels of pollen.

“They are a terrible nuisance,” Ransom said. Maples and elms are other heavy pollen producers.

According to, Manhattan’s pollen forecast for today is 9.7, which is considered high. The website measures pollen counts from low, to low-medium, medium, medium-high, and high on a scale of 0-12. Manhattan’s pollen counts will range from a low of 8.9 on Thursday to a high of 11.4 on Saturday.

Ranson has started to see the effects of an early bloom.

People have already started complaining of hay fever, Ransom said.

“That usually doesn’t happen until summer.”

While this season may be arduous for allergy sufferers, Ransom said it is likely going to be worse next year.

“The amount of pollen in a given year, depends on the amount of moisture in the trees that they get the previous year,” Ransom said. So far this year, Manhattan has had nearly an inch more than its normal precipitation levels. “Unless we get hit by a significant drought this season, next year would likely be another heavy pollination year.”

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